Monday, 31 July 2017

Round Robins: fun and folly. It's complicated.

We have experimented with many and varied forms of Round Robins at the Grind Writers, and its predecessor the Closet Writers Group, over the years. Some people call it collaborative writing.

We've done paper ones in a journal that was circulated by hand to members. That vanished somewhere and has not been seen since. Once a Round Robin goes AWOL, it is very hard to locate it again.

We did a very fun one at TCW one year -- passing it around and around. Finally, the man in our group got bored with it and wrote a character who killed everyone. Well, that was that. We had a good laugh at the implausibility of it all and its abrupt ending when we finally read it through together. 

I can imagine really fun RRs were they passed around in the pub and everyone had a shot with every contribution they made.


### ### ###

A bunch of us wrote in turns (for about 4 or 5 go-rounds) to a prompt that Margo liked from a workshop at the Surrey International Writers Conference orkshop on Writing Historical Fiction presented by Vancouver's best-selling historical fiction author Roberta Rich

For this one, we sent a Word.doc around by email. We had to add our bit within 72 hours, or pass on it and send it on to the next person.  (If you don't have a time limit like that, RRs will languish in one person's inbox while they're out of town, too tired to write after work, sick, uninspired, having a life crisis...)

That RR petered out when we couldn't quite agree on whether to keep it as real historical romance or set it in a made-up time and have it be a kind of fantasy historical romance. 

It was set in Tudor England in the time of Henry VIII. Some of us (Margo readily admits to this) were lazy and didn't want to look up every detail as we wrote -- did they really drink mead in the 15th century? (and come to think of it, was Henry's rule the 15th or 16thC? [it was both]) Did they have those lace cuffs she wanted to put on one gent's shirt? Did they say certain phrases? What sort of horses did they ride? You have to stop and verify everything for historical fiction. The research actually is great fun  -- deliciously distracting -- but it took a long time. 

We had built in a way to keep track of new characters any of us introduced along with their names, characteristics, and relatioship to other characters.  And a system of chapter recaps. (When the manuscript became so long it was quite unwieldy, Margo divided it up into tentative working chapters, something she wasn't entirely sure others appreciated but since we hadn't really developed a working structure, it wasn't always easy to discern things like that). 

Then there were style differences. Again, we had no structure to resolve those kinds of differences at all, never mind amongst 6-8 intelligent, imaginative women. For instance, some wanted to write sex scenes with the lustiness of the Tudor era; others wanted to have those four-poster boudoir curtains lower gently before things got too explicit. (Did they have four-poster beds in Tudor England? What was in their mattrasses? How did they keep those feather pillows from becoming vermin havens?  ...... you see how it goes)

Margo came to believe it would be so much easier to set it "somewhere in time," a time that sounded very much like Tudor England but wasn't, then be free to just make things up but with a real-sounding kind of Tudor flavour. She was in a minority, although even that wasn't totally clear. 

There were other issues, which I've forgotten. After a couple of rounds when the mechanics were demonstrating our house a-building was a mite rickety, we had a face meeting to try and resolve things. 

But we'd started out just writing gung-ho enjoying ourselves, and hadn't built any kind of decision-making structure. The truth is, too, you can't write by democracy.  So we ended up kind of treading water til the impetus to write fizzled and everyone got busy and their lives and dayjobs took over, and down down down the RR floated in the inbox until inertia ruled the day.

We did however send our output (which we all quite liked by the way) to Roberta and she was very gracious in the comments she sent us from deepest Italy somewhere, probably receiving more awards or doing research for her most recent book in her Venice trilogy - A Trial in Venice.

### ### ### 

If a group of writers produced really stellar, publishable output, collaborative writing could get really, really complicated unless you've sorted out a whole bunch of things before you start writing.

Say you decided to send it to a publisher and you have 8 or 10 people involved. They would all have to agree to the copyright and would receive royalties. The bookkeeping alone would be monstrous -- and who would do it?  Someone would have to get an agent for it; who'd do and negotiate that? And what agent would want to deal with 8 authors in a book that's not an anthology?  

Or would you self-publish? If self-pubbed, who would do all the work of compiling the front matter, designing the cover (and would 8 people have to agree on the cover? Oy); obtaining the ISBN, and holding the credit card to make those payments, doing the admin around getting refunded by the others. Who would format the manuscript for uploading if self-published. And if those tasks were all done by one or two of the group, should they get a higher royalty percentage? And who'd negotiate that?

I find my eyes getting heavy and my head lolling towards my chest just writing this.

Memo to self: never write collaboratively with more than one, max two, other writers. Way too complicated.

Then there was this.  Of about seven who started that Round Robin, at least two dropped out permanently at some stage. But they had already put quite a lot in a the beginning. Would they be entitled to equal royalties if it got published even if their input ended up being 1/200th of the total? Who would negotiate that? Who would draw up the agreement; who would hold it 'filed' somewhere? 

It's complicated.

My feet started to hurt just thinking about all that. And when it fizzed, I vowed to myself, "No more Round Robins!"

But they can be fun. So we did the uber-easy kind at the last Grind Writers. You just pass a paper around with a starter prompt. It's folded such that each person can see the contribution of the person before them, but that's all.

So they add theirs, and round it goes. It's quick and easy and very silly, therefore fun. And, of course, usually so wildly disjointed and contorted that these can be a howl to read at the end.

Here's the one we did last meeting on the fly. 



 
_______________________

If you love writing historical fiction - this:

10 questions with historical fiction author: Roberta Rich
March 8, 2014
examiner.com March 5, 2014. Roberta Rich, author of "The Midwife of Venice" and "The Harem Midwife" answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in

Read More

See what I mean?
National Post: March 2017
A brief history of forceps and childbirth, from the author of The Midwife of Venice

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Sunday, 21 May 2017

2017 SCHEDULE Grind Writers

Grind Writers Schedule 2017

*Note: Important - please email grindwriters@gmail.com before attending a meeting.


GRIND  WRITERS
MEETING DATES 2017

Sun
Jan 22

Sat
July 8
Sat
Feb 4
Sun
July 23   
Sun
Feb 19
Sat
Aug 5   
Sat
Mar 4
Sun
Aug 20   
Sun
Mar 19
Sat
Sept 9
Sat
Apr 1
Sun
Sept 24
Sun
Apr 23
Sat
Oct 7
Sat
May 6
Sun
Oct 22
Sun
May 28
Sat
Nov 4
Sat
June 10
Sun
Nov 19
Sun
June 25
Sat
Dec 2


Sun
Dec 17

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

GRIND WRITERS Magazine JAN 2017


 Grind Writers News Jan 2017 

See it on Issuu here.
3 | Things to do at night by yourself
5 |  Lovin' Taylor's "barf" and Lamott's "shitty" first drafts
6 |  Vancouver writing. New West writing.
7 |  Literary Bran: the joys of regularity
8 |  Go Go Go   LITERARY EVENTS
9 |  Crapulous. Fard. Words that sound rude but aren't
11 | The photo writing prompt  JUST DO IT
12-15 | Submit.  (You know you want to)  MASSES OF MARKETS
16 | Local writing workshops of note

Friday, 6 January 2017

Writing prompt for the new year

A new year seems to take us on reflective journeys back in our lives. We re-examine our choices. We poke through the entrails of our history, looking at how we got here.  

When we think back on our various choices and journeys, we freqently find there was a pivotal moment when something happened or someone said something that nudged us down one path or moved us somehow to make a certain choice. We don't always see it at the time. 

The UK's Guardian newspaper invited their readers to describe times when conversations or advice from other people or some event swayed them towards something or affected them (positively or negatively) in some way. And of course things that seemed negative at the time can with hindsight seem to actually have been positive. 

Pivotal events can be quite small and seemingly insignificant. It might be picking up a brochure, seeing a sign, hearing a talk, answering a phone call, even a song on the radio. Or it can be about things people said or did that had a lasting effect on us or in our lives, sometimes even in damaging ways that we spend years clearing up.  

This prompt is a good one to get going on while we're still in the new year's reflective auld lang syne mode. 

Here are a few the stories. Read a few, reflect -- then set your timer and start writing whatever comes to mind. (Remember you can edit later; just get the gist down while it's flowing).

You may come up with several things at different times in your life. When you finish writing about one,  then expand it a bit answering, "How did that work out?" and write about the effect it had on your life til now

(c)2017 Margo Lamont


'She'll never realise the impact she had': life-changing conversations 
We asked readers to tell us about their most significant conversation, or a letter  

What some Guardian readers wrote. This is the link to the article.

Richard, 50, mortician, US
My wife of 18 years asked me to see if I could fix something on her computer.  In doing so, I found a journal she had written revealing she was in a “loveless, parenting partnership”.  This was news to me.  I didn’t confront her about it at the time, but she revealed an affair a couple of years later and our marriage ended.  We are now parenting partners by law, and not particularly friendly.



Carol Jeffery, New Hampshire, US
As a senior at university, I was making up for an incomplete in the only course I had taken that semester.  My professor, who had known me and my family since I was a toddler, asked me what I expected in my future.  I told him that I would be a dedicated teacher. 


“Dedicated?” he said, “You are the most cavalier person I know.” I was, at that moment, liberated from all the admonitions of my upbringing, and I have gratefully acknowledged his comment ever since.  I believe I have been true to my moral code.  I also think that I have had more fun than most people ever do.

Anonymous, doctor, 67, Hampshire
I was 14 and at an average private school.  It was the school my father had been to and his brother taught there, which I found uncomfortable.  My younger brother had just won a scholarship to a much better private school.  I was at a sports event with my father at my school and he got talking to another parent, who congratulated him on having clever children. 


My father indicated towards me and said, “No, he’s the dim one.” I remember the parent’s intake of breath and a surprised, “Oh.” I have never forgotten this.

It is shattering how one unguarded comment can resonate for a lifetime My father died at the age of 51, when I was 29.  It is shattering how one unguarded comment can resonate for a lifetime.  I feel that the very many things I have done in my professional life have been to try to prove him wrong.


2017 Grind Writers Meeting Schedule

Please email before you attend a meeting. Sometimes we change the venue if we have a field event, and there are some requirements before you come to a meeting. Thanks.

Email:  grindwriters@gmail.com


GRIND  WRITERS
MEETING DATES 2017

Sat
Jan 7

Sat
July 8
Sun
Jan 22
Sun
July 23
Sat
Feb 4
Sat
Aug 5
Sun
Feb 19
Sun
Aug 20
Sat
Mar 4
Sat
Sept 9
Sun
Mar 19
Sun
Sept 24
Sat
Apr 1
Sat
Oct 7
Sun
Apr 23
Sun
Oct 22
Sat
May 6
Sat
Nov 4
Sun
May 28
Sun
Nov 19
Sat
June 10
Sat
Dec 2
Sun
June 25
Sun
Dec 17





Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Grind Writers schedule


GRIND WRITERS
MEETINGS SCHEDULE 2016
Approximately every 2 weeks. Alternating on Saturdays & Sundays. Skips any weekend with a holiday.

Please do not show up without emailing first to:
grindwriters@gmail.com

Sun Oct 16
Sat Oct 29
Sun Nov 20
Sat Dec 3
--Winter break--
Sat Jan 7 2017

Getting & giving feedback


Grind Writers Group
Getting and giving feedback
by Margo Lamont


Getting feedback
If you’re going to read a piece, bring half a dozen paper printouts. Some people do not do well hearing things read aloud; they need to follow along in print.
  1. Do not argue and justify why you wrote this or did that. That takes up way too much time, then others don’t get a chance to read.
  2. Keep the introduction to the piece brief. If it’s not somehow obvious that it’s a poem or short story etc., say that. If it’s part of a larger work, give a brief synopsis. Did I say brief? What’s important is to stop talking and start reading.
  3. Before you read, ask some specific question(s) you actually have about your work, such as:  I’d like to know if you think character X is believable? Have I used too much dialect? Does the ending seem realistic? Does this excerpt make you want to hear more? etc. Otherwise you may get general comments (“That was good”) that are not very helpful.
  4. Basically you need to be quiet during feedback, unless there’s specifically something you don’t understand. It’s not a discussion time. Instead: just listen and make notes.
  5. If you feel someone has misinterpreted something you wrote: that may mean you need to re-write and clarify. If five people say they thought the action was taking place on another planet and it wasn’t – you need to fix that. This is exactly why you want feedback. Fresh eyes.
  6. Do not interrupt. And when they are finished, say thank you, but don’t talk -- just look for the next person to start their feedback.
  7. Use a grain of salt. Feedback is only one person’s opinion (unless 10 people say the same thing).
  8. You may find it useful to ask someone else to read your work out loud. It’s amazing what you notice when someone else reads your work out. It may not be the way it sounded in your head – but that can be a good thing to know.
  9. You don’t have to change anything based on feedback. It’s your piece. Some people may simply not like, or get, your style. Or you may be writing an experimental piece or writing in a genre and they are unfamiliar with its conventions. (It may be okay to explain some of that—but not at any length!)
  10. Revise the piece, then bring it to read again and see if the reactions have changed. You may need to do this several times.
  11. Keep in mind others want time to read their piece and get feedback.
  12. If people note down copy-edits on your manuscript, be thankful. They are helping you look the best you can on paper to an editor.
  13.  Read #1 again. It was #5 at first but I moved it to #1 position because it’s that important.


Giving feedback

It's very brave of someone to read their work ever, anywhere—and especially to a group of other writers.

  1. So when someone finishes reading, show your admiration by tapping your fingers on the table. You don't even have to like the piece to do that.
  2. Feedback should be fairly brief—and helpful; supportive.
  3. Do not talk about your work and your similar or experiences and your life as it seems to relate to the reader’s piece yada yada yada. This is about them and their work. Don’t launch into anecdotes.
  4. Keep it about their piece. Full stop.
  5. Our mantra: “We’re giving feedback about what’s on the page. Our feedback focuses on how to make it better. (It’s not about you).” (Thanks, George).
  6. Make sure the person has given you a couple of specific questions they’d like you to answer about the piece they're reading. General feedback is not very helpful. So stop them and say, “What is your question for us?”
  7. You want to send them away enthusiastic about continuing to write – and possibly with practical suggestions about how they might improve that piece of writing. However, it’s not your job to rewrite their story: you may not be able to solve internal manuscript problems, but that’s okay. Sometimes just becoming aware of an issue is useful.
  8. If you think what someone has read is complete crap, keep that to yourself. Harsh negative criticism does not help people keep on writing. And by keeping on writing their writing will improve. This does not mean you have to praise work you think is awful. But if that’s the only way you know how to say it, then know that there’s someone else who will be able to say it less damagingly.
  9. If there were places where you stopped reading because you were distracted, puzzling out something out that wasn’t clear, or even becoming bored – put a star in that place in the manuscript, and explain to them later what was going on. The last thing any writer wants is for a reader to stop reading and be in their own head. So we want to know about anything that interrupts the flow.
  10. If it’s not a genre you’re comfortable with, don’t feel you have to say anything.
  11. If the person receiving feedback starts to argue with you or provide justifications about why they wrote this or did that – hold your hand up and ask them to just take notes, knowing that yours is only one opinion. The idea is not to get into an extended dialogue during feedback. It takes up too much group time – and other people want to read and receive feedback as well. You can always talk to the person on the break or after the meeting.  
  12. Yes, do write your copy-edit suggestions on the manuscript if you notice typos, spelling errors, formatting errors, inconsistencies, anything like that. Copy editing is not nit-picking: it’s saving the person from sending an embarrassing manuscript full of errors to editors who will be highly distracted by errors because most of them have previously been copy editors. If there are way too many, perhaps offer to copy-edit the piece at another time.
  13. You do not need to list each misspelling or copy-edit at the out-loud feedback. Write it on the manuscript; talk to them  about it afterwards if necessary. If you don’t understand certain words, look them up.
  14. Read #2 again.


Very important:
If someone has received your piece by email, and has taken the time to proof and read it, take the time to send them a thank you. It’s very time-consuming to give a thoughtful good read to a piece and provide written feedback.


___________________________
Something you'd like to add?
Please email your suggestions, your pet peeves about giving or getting feedback to: grindwriters@gmail.com.

If I use any of your suggestions they'll become part of my piece and under my copyright.


©2014 Margo Lamont